Jeff Hammerbacher, the chief scientist at Cloudera and tonight’s PandoMonthly guest, originally saw Facebook as a good place to work before heading off to graduate school. It wasn’t until the company introduced Facebook Platform that he really saw its potential.
“I thought of [Facebook] as a place to get my residency for a year so I could go off to grad school and do math stuff,” Hammerbacher said. “[Platform’s debut] was this transition where it all became clear that this was the universal platform for capturing identity. From that point on, for me, it was a zero-to-one shift.”
Platform was supposed to turn Facebook into the center of the social Web that would feature various applications, services, and games inside the main Facebook ecosystem. It was, basically, the start of Facebook’s efforts to effectively replace the World Wide Web.
Hammerbacher said during tonight’s PandoMonthly that Platform’s release changed the way he viewed Facebook. “That’s when,” he said, “I would start feeling bad for the people who said ‘No’ to me” while he was recruiting people to Facebook’s data research group.
Platform never lived up to that promise. As Pando alumnus Hamish McKenzie reported in an article contending that Platform was one of Facebook’s gigantic missed opportunities:
Today, just after its sixth birthday, Facebook Platform is a shadow of what it could have been, a missed opportunity that might amount to tens of billions of dollars of squandered revenue. Outside of games, there has been no killer Facebook app. Other than Zynga, you’ll struggle to name a single business that has built itself entirely inside the Facebook framework. Once-promising startups Slide and iLike would ultimately abandon their big bets on the platform, selling to Facebook rivals Google and MySpace for amounts smaller than their one-time valuations.
The post is worth reading in full, and I wanted to call attention to it after this interview because Hammerbacher showed that Platform was something in which many Facebook employees believed, even though it never really managed to deliver on any of its promises.